Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Freight and Logistics Bodies Criticised By UK Warehousing Boss

Specific Skills Lacking and Problems Exacerbated by Non Cooperation
Shipping News Feature

UK – We wrote last week of the very successful United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) lunch and Awards ceremony and detailed the various winners from the freight and logistics sector. The UKWA membership controls around a million square feet of storage space and chairman, John Maguire, who took over the post two years ago, is the first in the organisation’s sixty nine year history who does not hail from a third party logistics company, being the sales director of articulated forklift truck manufacturer, Flexi Narrow Aisle Ltd. in his ‘real job’.

During his introductory speech to the audience packing the dining suite at the Dorchester Hotel in London’s Park Lane, Maguire made plain his concerns for the future of the UK domestic logistics industry, which he considers to be amongst the most efficient and effective in the world. He sounded a cautionary note however criticising a lack of cohesiveness and cooperation between rival companies and trade associations, saying:

“Any industry can only be as good as the talent that it manages to attract, develop and retain but the logistics industry’s skills base is increasingly viewed an issue for the industry. The sector needs to recruit 900,000 individuals leading up to 2020 but nearly a fifth of vacancies in the transport and storage sector are classified as ‘hard to fill’ because of the lack of applicants with the required skills.

“In addition to ‘soft skills’ such as customer handling and communication, it is job specific skills that are most commonly lacking. Such skills are increasingly important in a sector facing change driven by technology and globalisation. As businesses prepare for the economic upturn, they will need skilled people in order to respond to demand but, if it is not addressed, the current and on-going skills gap will result in increased operating costs and reduced competitiveness across the sector.

“The logistics industry needs to agree a course of action which will lead to a more focused and unified approach to the fundamental issue of training and developing our workforce in a consistent and progressive way. But, at present, we do not have the cohesion in the sector to achieve this. Our larger companies have difficulty putting aside their competitive caps when addressing key industry issues. There are also historical, cultural and commercial barriers between some of our larger trade associations, which prevent a unified approach on these issues. But the industry must do better than it is.”

Photo: John Maguire at the recent UKWA Awards.